Previews: Xavi & Pique may make Barca returns

MADRID - Brief news from La Liga ahead of this weekend's matches:

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has midfielder Xavi and central defender Gerard Pique back from injury for Saturday's match at fourth-placed Real Mallorca.

A win against the Balearic Islanders would put the champions, level on 71 points with Real Madrid but behind on goal difference, three points clear at the top ahead of Real's match at home to Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Barca left-back Eric Abidal is still sidelined with an adductor muscle problem and midfielder Sergio Busquets is suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card in Wednesday's 2-0 win at home to Osasuna.

Mallorca have won all but one of their 13 home matches this season and Guardiola said his side would have to be at their very best to emulate Sevilla and come away from the Ono Estadi with three points.

"It's not by chance they have got the results they have," he told a news conference. "They are an extremely strong team in every area and one that shows it is led by an immense coach."

Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano said the pressure will be on Barca on Saturday as his side had already achieved their goals for the season while any slip-up by the Catalans would benefit their arch rivals Real in the title race.

"There is a great deal of cohesion on a human level in our dressing room," Manzano told Barca TV on Friday. "We got over the institutional problems and the club's financial crisis and the players were able to focus on sporting issues."

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas has admitted he was wrong to lose his temper with Getafe midfielder Daniel Parejo during Real's 4-2 victory on Thursday.

Parejo won the ball cleanly from Casillas outside the penalty area in the 38th minute, leaving the Spain captain clutching his ankle on the turf, and fired a shot through a crowd of defenders into the empty net to make it 4-1.

Casillas was initially furious that Parejo, a former Real player, had not kicked the ball out of play but said on Friday he had done nothing wrong.

Erratic Atletico, the only team to beat Barca this season, are bidding for a first victory over their city rivals in more than 10 years and warmed up with a 2-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

Coach Quique Sanchez Flores said the team were in good shape and any fatigue would be outweighed by the players' desire to win at the Bernabeu. "There is no lack of motivation for Sunday," he told a news conference.

Atletico striker Diego Forlan, who opened the scoring at the Calderon on Thursday and was top scorer in La Liga last season, hit out at critical home fans after the match, saying they sometimes had short memories.

"I am upset by the attitude," Forlan was quoted as saying in Friday's As newspaper. "You try to do things well on the pitch, for better or for worse, but always giving everything."

Valencia will be without their top scorer David Villa for Saturday's trip to Real Zaragoza after the Spain striker received a blow to the head during Wednesday's home win over Malaga, in which he scored the only goal.

Villa, likely to lead the Spain attack at the World Cup this summer, spent the night in hospital and needs three to four days rest before returning to action, club medical staff said.

Sevilla's injury woes worsened on Friday when a scan revealed defender Federico Fazio had damaged ankle ligaments in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Xerez.

The Andalusian club, who appointed Antonio Alvarez to replace the sacked Manolo Jimenez as coach on Friday, also lost winger Diego Perotti and midfielder Didier Zokora during the Xerez game.

Alvarez's first match in charge is on Sunday at Villarreal as fifth-placed Sevilla seek to close the two-point gap to Mallorca and claim back the fourth Champions League qualification spot.

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